Placental restriction of fetal growth reduces size at birth and alters postnatal growth, feeding activity, and adiposity in the young lamb

Miles J. De Blasio, Kathryn L. Gatford, Jeffrey S. Robinson, Julie A. Owens

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Intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) is associated with accelerated growth after birth. Together, IUGR and accelerated growth after birth predict reduced lean tissue mass and increased obesity in later life. Although placental insufficiency is a major cause of IUGR, whether it alters growth and adiposity in early postnatal life is not known. We hypothesized that placental restriction (PR) in the sheep would reduce size at birth and increase postnatal growth rate, fat mass, and feeding activity in the young lamb. PR reduced survival rate and size at birth, with soft tissues reduced to a greater extent than skeletal tissues and relative sparing of head width (P < 0.05 for all). PR did not alter absolute growth rates (i.e., the slope of the line of best fit for age vs. parameter size from birth to 45 days of age) but increased neonatal fractional growth rates (absolute growth rate relative to size at birth) for body weight (+24%), tibia (+15%) and metatarsal (+18%) lengths, hindlimb (+23%) and abdominal (+19%) circumferences, and fractional growth rates for current weight (P < 0.05) weekly throughout the first 45 days of life. PR and small size at birth reduced individual skeletal muscle weights and increased visceral adiposity in absolute and relative terms. PR also altered feeding activity, which increased with decreasing size at birth and was predictive of increased postnatal growth and adiposity. In conclusion, PR reduced size at birth and induced catch-up growth postnatally, normalizing weight and length but increasing adiposity in early postnatal life. Increased feeding activity may contribute to these alterations in growth and body composition following prenatal restraint and, if they persist, may lead to adverse metabolic and cardiovascular outcomes in later life.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Adiposity
  • Catch-up growth
  • Fetal growth restriction

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